Assad Could Stay in Power After End of Syria’s Civil War

Syrian opposition officials say a recent rise in al-Qaida linked fighters has softened the West’s stance on the dictator.

Women shout slogans during a demonstration gathering activists, including Syrians living in Turkey, opposed to Syria's regime of President Bashar al-Assad after the Friday prayers on July 29, 2011 in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul. Assad's forces have killed at least 1,486 civilians since the anti-regime uprising began in mid-March, according to rights groups. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jordain Carney
Dec. 17, 2013, 11:30 a.m.

West­ern of­fi­cials are ques­tion­ing wheth­er Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad’s re­mov­al should be in­cluded in talks aimed at end­ing the coun­try’s civil war, mem­bers of the Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion said.

The shift comes amongst an up­tick in vi­ol­ence by al-Qaida-backed fight­ers in the coun­try. The United States and Bri­tain sus­pen­ded non­leth­al aid go­ing in­to north­ern Syr­ia last week in the wake of an at­tack by Is­lam­ic Front fight­ers on build­ings held by oth­er rebel groups.

“Our West­ern friends made it clear in Lon­don that As­sad can­not be al­lowed to go now be­cause they think chaos and an Is­lam­ist mil­it­ant takeover would en­sue,” one mem­ber of the Syr­i­an Na­tion­al Co­ali­tion, a group of West­ern-backed rebels, told Re­u­ters.

An­oth­er of­fi­cial sug­ges­ted that As­sad could be al­lowed to run again if a pres­id­en­tial elec­tion is held after his term ends next year.

If the United States and oth­er West­ern al­lies are shift­ing their po­s­i­tion it could bring them closer to Rus­si­an of­fi­cials, who have spoken out against tak­ing ac­tion against As­sad.

Peace talks aimed at end­ing the civil war are ex­pec­ted to kick off next month.

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